September 30, 2012 Paris
Really, there was nothing to worry about. The Céline woman who emerged at that Avenue Foch venue today was somewhat different: stylish, yet slovenly even, elegant in a dishabille way. Yes, you could imagine her sitting down; in fact, you could imagine her sprawled out on a couch. And the Céline woman was all the better for it.
A mood of looseness (in both senses of the term) and ease has been permeating many of the shows this season. And yet how the designer Phoebe Philo handled it was distinctly her own. As much was apparent as the first silhouette emerged, black, slightly oversize, trousers slightly half mast, not too perfect. And then there were the shoes: black fur-lined sandals in a Birkenstock vein, and that fur looked like mink with the models' glossy red toenails nestled in it. Perverse, like Méret Oppenheim's furry teacup. The track to accompany all of this? Depeche Mode's "Useless."
The shoes were key to this collection: furry, witty, unhinged. In a mostly black and white offering, they disrupted any notion of sobriety. Predominantly flat—yet with some also rather remarkable fur-covered stilettos—they were fuzzy flashes of color, fun, and oddness.
As for the clothes, there was something unfinished in those raw edges, or the backs of tops with excess material, or the unfinished seams; there was also a nod to Belgian deconstruction of the nineties. The slouchy, flat-front trousers with their crotches carelessly low, the trenchcoats slung over short dresses with full furry slippers—there was something of the walk of shame about the lot, as well as the nineties up-all-night attitude, when Helmut Lang clothes would be flashed and trashed in clubs. And yet it all really felt like Céline and Phoebe Philo.
Unlike most, this reviewer never imagined Philo as the Céline woman—well, who really could be? She was just so perfect, and not all authors of novels are their characters in any case. The designer had concocted an extreme and immaculate character for her collections, somebody to aspire to for her audience. Yet today she added a new chapter to her story, and it was one you couldn't help but think had sprung from real life. Philo defined her collection as being about "togetherness, beauty, friendship, and a journey." In this journey the Céline woman was humanized. For this viewer, it was the most compelling Céline collection yet.